Northern Ireland Gaming
game reviews07 Oct 2008 09:08 pm

By Paddy

Right, straight off the bat, let me say that this review will be hard for me to do with a semblance of professionalism. Why? Because the Monster Hunter series is one I keep close to my heart, so there may be a slight amount of bias throughout this review.

Right, let me get onto pointing out all of the good points of this game while ignoring any negative qualities it may have.

Let me start off by saying that you won’t actually get to play this game. I say this because the game was only released in Japan. Well, you could, but it’d require you doing the same amount of work that I did i.e. getting Custom Firmware on your PSP, downloading the ISO of the game, ordering the UMD from the internet so you don’t feel bad for stealing the game, and then getting the English patch off of the internet. (Long sentence no.1)

Besides, if you do want to play it, you can just wait for the Western version of the game, Monster Hunter Freedom Unite, to arrive over here, due whenever the hell Capcom feel like doing some work.

So, the basis of the Monster Hunter series is that there is no storyline, per se. What you get is a large number of quests to do, which vary in difficulty depending on where you take them from (Your village’s elder or the hunting guild), and depending on their level, measured in stars. The quests in the guild are harder than those given to you by the village elder e.g. a 4* Guild quest is harder than a 4* elder quest.

You pick a quest, go complete the objective (Gather x amount of herbs, kill x amount of minion creatures, deliver x amount of some item, kill big boss monster), receive items, and use them to create weapons and armour, which allow you to take higher level quests, kill new monsters, get their armour and weapons, which allows you to take even higher level quests, and so on. (Long sentence no.2)

And because it’s been over 300 words already, here’s a picture:

(If you think that the Hunter can win in the above picture, you need your head looking at)

Right, Monster Hunter Portable 2nd G is an upgraded version of Monster Hunter Portable 2nd, or Monster Hunter Freedom 2 over here. As you’d expect from an upgraded version, the game comes with new weapons, armour, monsters to hunt, and much more minor fixes as well.

These minor fixes obviously don’t mean much to a first-timer, but to someone who’s played the previous games, they make all the difference. Being able to skip more sequences, for example, and being able to access things directly from your store when you’re at the farm, or being able to combine inside your storage box, all these niggling issues have been fixed. It shows that Capcom have actually listened to their fans, which is a rare occurrence from developers nowadays.

What hasn’t changed is the number of different weapon types in the game, which amount to 11 different types. In the picture below, in order from left to right, are examples of each weapon. The weapon types are Long Swords, Great Swords, Dual Swords, Heavy Bowguns, Bows, Light Bowguns, Gun Lances, Lances, Hunting Horns, Hammers and Sword and Shield:

So, there’s plenty of choice for you, depending on how you want to play. If you want to have a very powerful weapon that requires excellent timing, go for a Hammer or a Great Sword. If you want a slow weapon that leaves you well protected, choose a Gun Lance or a Lance.  If you want to attack from range, a Bowgun or a Bow is for you. And if you are a Final Fantasy fanboy/girl, and want to be Sephiroth, then use a Long Sword. Conversely, if you want to be Cloud, there’s a great sword called the (God save me), Buster Sword

Eugh. Well, as the above picture proves, there is quite a large degree of customization on offer in the game, although both of the above set-ups aren’t what you’d call…useful in a fight. Style over Substance and all that.

That is also another key part of the Monster Hunter ethos, in the vein of armour skills. There’re stacks of them for you to consider, as each one is useful in the right situation. Of course there are several ‘general’ skills that are effective in every situation (Attack Boost, Defence Up, Earplugs to defend you from a monster’s roar, and so on), so you need to make sure that you have a wide range of gear depending on the situation.

As far as gameplay goes, this is a game which follows the tactical method of ‘hit it until it dies’ as the main mechanic. How you go about doing that, however, is a much more interesting prospect. Your weapon, the monster you’re hunting, the location, and many other factors depend on how easy or difficult the fight is going to be. To be the best at this game, you need to learn the various attack patterns of the monsters, what element is the best to use against them, when you can safely dodge or use a potion, as well as other things that you need to discover by yourself.

One of the main criticisms of the gameplay is the lack of a lock-on system, but that would ruin the way the game plays. You control the camera with the d-pad, and the best way of doing that is thumb on the stick, index finger on the buttons, in the so-named ‘crab’ position. It works, trust me.

Items are also a critical part of the game. These range from traps, to potions, to flash bombs, to drinks that keep you cool in hot areas like the desert. Preparation is the key to success in this game. If you forget some vital item, you are, to put it bluntly, screwed over.

Not that that’s the only way to get screwed over in this game. I’ll not lie, the difficulty curve is…steep. You are going to get frustrated by this game, because at the beginning of the game, you’re calm, relaxed in the knowledge that you’re fighting small creatures that really aren’t a load of bother to you:

And then BOOM, you’re up to your neck in Ancient Dragon!

Well, okay, it’s not THAT harsh, but there will be times when you won’t be able to help but think “What the hell! The game didn’t prepare me for that! That was SO unfair!”

Tough luck, this game isn’t fair, and once you get used to that, you’ll be able to advance. I mean, you’re not really supposed to win the hardest fights in the game on your first go. You’re meant to take several fights getting used to the monster’s attack patterns.

Of course, hardly anyone listens to that advice, they play the game for 5-10 hours, get frustrated, and give up, thus having only really played the game for about…10-15% of its lifespan. Yup, this game is LONG. And I mean that. It will keep you going for hours and hours. Hell, you’re allowed up to 50 minutes for every quest in the game, and there are hundreds of them to complete. Some of the later ones may take longer than that to finish by yourself though, so it’d be best for you to recruit a friend to help you.

Which brings me onto another one of the great aspects of this game: The multiplayer. You can use Wi-Fi to do quests with up to 3 other people, and it is EASILY the most fun I’ve ever had out of my PSP. Although you’re still not immune to that well known ‘Oh crap I’m actually about to get raped over’ emotion.

But that’s a good thing, as it sets your heart racing as you know that you could be snuffed out within a few seconds of being in a dominant position, and if you’ve had a down-to-the-wire, died two-out-of-three times confrontation, where you snatch victory from the jaws of defeat, it’s one of those events that just make you want to keep playing, and playing, and playing. (Long sentence no.3)

So, there you go. Monster Hunter Portable 2nd G is a long, exciting game with deep gameplay, tactics and customization, albeit it has a steep leaning curve and is actually in Japanese unless you illegally download a version of the game and then get the English patch.

It’s a frustrating, but immensely rewarding experience, and it is very much worth getting it’s English equivalent, Monster Hunter Freedom Unite, when it’s released over here.

tl;dr? Go buy Monster Hunter Freedom Unite when it comes out!

P.S. As is my way, here’s my random related image for this review:

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